What are the new rules for towing a caravan?
Towards the end of 2021, the government’s rules on towing a trailer or caravan changed. We’ve summarised the changes here in case you’re worried about how you might have been affected.
Who is affected by the changes?
If you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997, you’re unlikely to be affected by the changes. If this is the case, your licence will usually allow you to drive a vehicle and trailer with a combined Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of up to 8,250kg.
The MAM is how much a vehicle is permitted to weigh when it is loaded.
If you passed your driving test on or after 1 January 1997, the rules were a little different. Depending on when you passed your test, you would have been allowed to drive the following:
Passed driving test between 1 January 1997-18 January 2013: A vehicle of up to 3,500kg MAM with a trailer of up to 750kg MAM. Or, a trailer over 750kg MAM, given that it’s no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle.
Passed driving test from 19 January: A vehicle of up to 3,500kg MAM with a trailer of up to 750kg MAM. Or, a trailer over 750kg as long as the combined MAM is no more than 3,500kg.
If you wanted to tow anything heavier, you would have had to pass a car and trailer driving test.
What are the new towing rules?
The new rules simplify things overall and came into place on 16 December 2021.
If you passed your test before 1 January 1997, you should still be able to drive a vehicle and trailer combination with a MAM of up to 8,250kg. You should always check your licence before towing a trailer for the first time.
If you passed your driving test on or after 1 January 1997, the new rules state that you’re now allowed to tow trailers up to 3,500kg MAM.
You don’t need to do anything to update your licence, the DVLA will do this automatically. The next time you’re issued a licence, category BE will have been added.
Can you get a refund for a previously passed car and trailer driving test?
If you’d booked a test which wasn’t carried out due to the change, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency will have cancelled and refunded this.
Unfortunately, if you’ve already completed a test, you cannot get a refund or compensation. You won’t be able to get a refund or compensation for any training undergone to help prepare for the test either.
Advice on towing a caravan for the first time
Once you’re sure you’ve got the correct licence to drive your vehicle and caravan combination, it’s time to hit the road. Here are five tips to consider when you’re towing for the first time.
The first piece of advice is to give yourself plenty of space and time for each manouvre. You’ll need to be looking further ahead than you would if you were just driving a car in order to give you more time to brake with the extra weight. You’ll also need to give yourself more room to navigate corners.
Be conscious of the extra weight when you’re accelerating. When you’re towing a caravan, chances are you’ll accelerate more slowly so you’ll need to bear this in mind when performing manouvres such as joining the motorway. When on a motorway, you are not allowed to tow in the outside lane, unless directed to do so in such cases as roadworks or an accident.
Make sure you have good visibility to the rear of your caravan. This is a legal requirement and will usually involve using extension mirrors. Having a good set of well-calibrated mirrors will be a great help whatever road you’re on as caravans completely restrict your rear view in most cases.
If your car and caravan are well matched, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the caravan ‘snaking’, or swaying from side to side behind you. If this does happen, resist the temptation to hit the brakes and continue driving in a straight line as you use engine braking to slow your vehicle down.
Be considerate to other drivers. If you notice traffic building up behind you, find a safe and legal place to pull over and let them pass.
If you’re not confident with the idea of towing a caravan, you can book training from a driving instructor to get you started.